Global digital payments platform PayPal announced on Tuesday that they have decided to reverse their plans of opening a new global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina in opposition to House Bill 2 (HB2).
The law, which has gained the moniker of “The Bathroom Law” in that it criminalizes transgender people from using bathrooms that do not correspond to their birth sex, has been widely criticized for being extremely discriminatory against members of the LGBT community. The bill in its full text can be here viewed in a PDF.
In a letter penned by the company’s President and CEO Dan Schulman and posted on April 5, he states that, “The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture. As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte.”
Beyond the statutes in the law that limit bathroom use for transgender citizens in the state and impede the ability of workers to sue for discrimination, especially in cases where they were fired for their sexual orientation or similar factors, it makes it legal for businesses to deny service to LGBT persons based on the business owners’ personally held beliefs.
Members of the North Carolina trans community protested the law, showing the absurdity of the situation.
— James P Sheffield (@JayShef) March 24, 2016
According to the New York Times, before the passage of the law PayPal had promised $3.6 million to be invested in the area. That funding is now lost to the residents of Charlotte along with the jobs expected to be created as a result of opening the facility.
Calling their decision to oppose the discrimination inherent in the law “a clear and unambiguous one,” Schulman says that he regrets that PayPal “will not have the opportunity to be a part of the Charlotte community and to count as colleagues the skilled and talented people of the region.”
Despite this, he says that, “As a company that is committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are, becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable.”
This is not the first time that tech and the struggle for LGBT rights have crossed paths.
In 2014, Mozilla’s co-founder and newly appointed CEO Brendan Eich came under heavy criticism for his support of Proposition 8 in California that banned same-sex marriage in the state and his donations to politicians that held similar views.
In a little over a week after he was appointed to the position on March 24, 2014, a fury of criticisms from Mozilla employees and users led to Eich resigning the post on April 3 of that year.
While individuals can hold whichever hateful views they choose, the systematic incorporation of homophobia and transphobia into law by a governing body needs to be opposed in the strongest terms.
PayPal has taken an important step in showing that business and the tech industry with its ability to create jobs and bring revenues to local government have a red line in place against policies that discriminate against members of the LGBT and other vulnerable communities.
Governments that discriminate should be made to understand that they will pay a price in dollars and cents, not just bad publicity. By revoking their plan to open their facility in Charlotte, PayPal has shown that they are ready to back their words up with action, and for this they should be applauded.
Read Schulman’s letter in full here.